Thursday, March 26, 2015

Excerpts From An Interesting Essay

Political Correctness Is Devouring Itself
I never thought that actually saying all of this would ever be necessary. Apparently government schools and universities are stocked with people who got no education themselves, but are now "educating" for a living... which translated means cranking out adults who are perpetual juveniles, emotionally confused and fragile as grandma's tea cups.
"Go into the modern university and you won’t hear much about Mill or Milton or the millions around the world who have had to learn the hard way why freedom of speech matters. Instead, you will be fed philosophers far less rigorous than Feinberg. The New Zealander Jeremy Waldron, an Oxford professor from the American university system, which churns out authoritarian philosophers the way Ford churns out cars, suggests speech that attacks the dignity of others should be banned. Stanley Fish of New York dispenses with any pretence that we should respect universal human rights, and descends into power-worship and thuggery. “The only way to fight hate speech is to recognise it as the speech of your enemy,” he says. “And what you do in response to the speech of your enemy is not prescribe a medication for it but attempt to stamp it out.” Take a breath and think about his assumptions. This is the tyrannical language of an illiberal intelligentsia so lost in complacency it thinks it no longer needs the rights it once championed.We don’t care if we are being consistent, it says. We have the power to censor now and we will use it.

Few contemporary theorists grasp that people oppose censorship not because they respect the words of the speaker but because they fear the power of the censor. It is astonishing that professed liberals, of all people, could have torn up the old limits, when they couldn’t answer the obvious next question: who decides what is offensive?


In Britain the state is showing that real power does not and has never been in the hands of over-confident intellectuals. It is telling academics to report on campus Islamists, even when they are not engaged in violence. “Thank you very much,” the politicians seem to be saying to the illiberal philosophers, the organisers of blacklists, and the intellectuals who dismissed free speech as an illusion. “If you say you can ban speakers even though they are not provoking violence, we can demand that you spy on Islamist students, even though they are not violent either.”

All of a sudden and with a blackly comic haste, British academics are scrambling to rediscover the virtue of freedom of speech, a liberty they spent a generation denigrating. All of a sudden. And much too late.

No, no, no, the liberals protest. We never wanted to spy and censor on behalf of the powerful, but on behalf of the powerless. But again how are they to judge the loss of dignity that can justify criminal penalties? Perhaps the vehemence of the offence taken is the decisive factor. Maybe if the offended can prove that they are shocked beyond measure, they would provide legitimate grounds to censor. If so, we must give in to Islamists, who feel the hurt of blasphemy so keenly they will murder anyone they deem to have blasphemed. Many have given in and bowed to a blasphemy code enforced at gunpoint. If they were being consistent, they would have to back down if Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Scientologists, Satanists and atheists followed suit and started murdering the authors of unpleasant depictions of their beliefs. If conservatives could prove that the discussion of left-wing ideas incited pain, or left-wingers could say the same about right-wing ideas, they would presumably have to take the logical step of deciding that political argument was offensive too.

Identity politics and the demands for freedom from offence it breeds create a Hobbesian world where everyone can demand the censorship of everyone else. There is no better proof of this than the fate of the politically correct themselves.

Strip away the appearance of a solid ideology, and you see the contradications. The tendency of the modern liberal-left to excuse radical Islam is supported by the politically correct belief that liberals should support a religion of the disadvantaged. In the name of liberalism, they fail to fight a creed that is sexist, racist, homophobic and, in its extreme forms, genocidal and totalitarian. Their political correctness has turned their principles inside out, and led them to abandon their beliefs in female and homosexual equality.

But the difficulties in pretending there are no conflicts between groups are as nothing compared to the pretence that there are no conflicts within them. Michael Ezra, a friend who is researching the growth of the illiberal intelligentsia, says that he is constantly reminded of Trotsky’s warning about the Bolshevik party’s claim that it represented the working class. A rapid descent follows, Trotsky said: “The organisation of the party substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally the ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee.” Or in the case of feminist identity politics the people with the loudest voices substitute themselves for an entire gender.


We have gone from the principle that only speech that incites crime can be banned to the principle that speech that incites gross offence can be banned to the principle that speech that provokes discomfort can be banned. This is not so much a slippery slope as a precipitous drop.

Many want to take the plunge. A few weeks ago, 130 intellectuals wrote to the Observer to make the classic case for freedom of speech. They said that feminists critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists were being banned because the prevailing consensus was that the mere “presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety. You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic.”

Who could possibly object to that, I thought.

Just about everyone, it turned out. Hundreds of other intellectuals replied in the next issue of the Observer. They made the counterfeit claim that being “no-platformed” by student groups was not an attack on free speech. They went on to confuse support for free speech with support for the speaker—the tactic of every grand dictator and little Hitler in history—and implied that standing up for open debate meant the letter’s signatories were indeed “transphobes” and “whorephobes”. Extreme though their reaction was, it was nothing when set against the reaction of online activists.

The indomitable gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is a hard man to frighten. He has fought homophobic vigilantes and Robert Mugabe’s security guards. But even Tatchell was unnerved by the 4,000 abusive Twitter messages he received for putting his name to the Observer letter. His abusers denounced him as a “homo”, “foreigner”, “misogynist”, “paedophile” and “nutter”. One correspondent informed him that “I would like to tweet about your murder you fucking parasite.” So much for the safety of those who seek to challenge “safe spaces”.


Electoral calculation ought to stop left-wingers allowing conservatives to own the inspiring idea of freedom of speech. If they could only see how they appear to others, they would understand that the people they are trying to convert tend to suspect those who would tell them what to say and how to say it. Many who should be open to radical arguments will turn away because they associate the Left with the silencing of contrary views and the imposition of orthodoxy. Above all, left-wingers need to grasp that speech codes and blacklists do not produce social change but a hypocritical observance of conventional pieties.
If they doubt it, they should look at how the willingness of governments and corporations to make the minor concession of following PC language rules in no way stops them from slashing public services or exploiting workers. They should see what is wrong with a country where you can get away with any amount of cruelty as long as you don’t use “inappropriate” language. If they examine history, they would realise the dangers they face. The first wave of political correctness came in the early 1990s, when the American Left was on its knees after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and triumph of capitalism. So risible was its condition, its chosen candidate for the US presidency was Bill Clinton, a shifty politician of no fixed conviction who had been pretty much been bought by Wall Street. With no possibility of changing the world, campus radicals retreated into themselves and decided to change the university instead.

Now they are in retreat again. Despite the Crash, the Occupy movement has fizzled out, and the American Left’s apparent candidate is Hillary Clinton, a shifty politician of no fixed conviction, who has been pretty much bought by Wall Street. And with today’s retreat come all the 1990s’ problems of speaking in private PC codes, which are as alien to ordinary voters as Nancy Mitford’s U and Non-U English. With the retreat comes the pathetic insistence on reforming language rather than reforming society, and the old seductive delusion that you can censor your way to a better tomorrow.

The rest of the population should worry about the future too. The politicians, bureaucrats, chief police officers and corporate leaders of tomorrow are at universities which teach that free debate and persuasion by argument are ideas so dangerous they must be banned as a threat to health and safety. Unless we challenge them in the most robust manner imaginable, whatever kind of country they grow up to preside over is unlikely to be a free one."

Go to the LINK for the full essay, or just to give the author a hit.

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